Thursday, January 10, 2008

Captain Ahab and the Islamic whale

By Kaveh L Afrasiabi
Asia Times

"This is a splendid example of what is fundamentally wrong with US foreign policy, like a giant whale self-stranding in a maze of contradictions yet breathing as if exuding fresh air. Washington's Captain Ahab, in the garb of President George W Bush, setting foot in the Middle East, holds the olive branch of Middle East peace in one hand and the Damocles sword of Iran-bashing in the other, a twin agenda in complete disharmony. It's no way to catch Moby Dick......

As a result, Bush's Middle East trip risks being a major foreign-policy disappointment for the Arab world fixing its glare at the delayed peace initiative of a US president who has pulverized an Arab nation and who is widely regarded in Israel as the "friendliest US president in history". Unlike his father, former president George Herbert Bush, who followed his military gambit in Kuwait in 1991 with the Madrid peace talks and strong-arming the Israelis by threatening to cut off US aid, George W Bush has until now lacked a "balancing approach". This is reflected in the minutest lack of criticism of Israel's relentless expansion of Jewish settlements on Palestinian lands. What is more, any minor improvement is likely to be regarded as a necessary adjustment to push the engine of "containing Iran" and its band of "rogue" allies in the region.......

Alas, the big wrong turn on Iran is in essence embedded in a larger wrong turn and twist of the US's overall approach toward the Middle East that is cemented by an "Israel first" priority almost to the exclusion of all other considerations. And, at this critical juncture, that simply means missing yet another window of opportunity to set relations with Iran on the right foot. Indeed, this Ahab's Middle East ambitions are dulled by self-made myths, for example, "Islamofascism", predestined to if not complete failure, complete muddling through; the path to his fixed purpose is laid with iron twists, smelling like the right wing of the day of judgment. His curtain about to fall and yet plotting more drama, will anyone survive the wreck? Will Bush's legacy survive him or will it be, as Melville put it, "... and his whole captive form folded in the flag of Ahab, went down with his ship". He may not be dismasted by the Islamic whale, yet like his neo-conservative friends, he may spit his last breath at them. "

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